13 March, 2021 § Leave a comment
At 6.30 am this morning I woke to be ready to join in and listen to Women’s Voices, Telling Stories, storytelling evening hosted by Liz Weir. (It was evening in Northern Ireland!)
What a feast that was. I’m only sad that I had to leave early after an hour and a half. So many women weaved words of magic to spell-bind the listener. It was like times past where you’d sit around the campfire or hearth and listen to stories being told. Before the days of wireless and television and social media apps. A time when people focused on people and mesmerised children and adults with tales well spun.
It was a delightful hour and a half for me. I was enchanted, engaged and energised with creativity. I took notes of passages and phrases that stood out like “skin shimmering like white pearl” from Masako Carey, and many more.
Listening to storytellers is not something I’d normally do. It was an opportunity that presented itself and I grabbed the opportunity. I don’t plan to be a storyteller. But something told me it would be worthwhile times spent – and it was.
So, switch up how you take in information, what you consume, where you normally look for inspiration.
Doing different things accesses different regions of the brain and perks up your creative space. It shakes things up. Our brains are inherently lazy. Actually they’re highly efficient. They are designed to make sense of our world and then repeat the same process. Every now and then we benefit from changing our usual patterns, Like taking a different route home – you suddenly see things you’d not noticed for some time such as a tree in bloom or shedding its autumnal leaves. You’re alert to your surroundings because they are not overly familiar.
When you alter what comes into your vision and hearing, like listening to storytellers, you reconstruct temporarily your brain pattern. I feel inspired and creative and ready to write with new ideas after that session. I wouldn’t have felt that this morning if I’d followed my usual morning routine.
How can you shake up today or tomorrow to access some creativity and inspire your writing?
5 December, 2020 § Leave a comment
Like many writers and aspiring authors, the story of J.K. Rowling is a real rags-to-riches tale with so many lessons to learn. From her penniless start, her determination by writing in a local café, her complex plots and characters, her perseverance in the face of rejection and her capacity to turn her series into other products and merchandise making her the richest author to date.
Our chances of emulating her success is questionable but our ability to improve our mindset and craft is definitely possible.
Today I discovered a website dedicated to just that: learning from the lessons of Rowling. Grab a bevvie, find a comfy chair, hold your fave pen over your ever-present notebook and begin …
1 December, 2020 § Leave a comment
One of the first experiences with writing is generated by a desire to put together a family history or a memoir. I just came across this resource and thought I’d pop it in here so I don’t lode it – and can access it when I get around to dong my own family history!
Hopefully, these materials will stay around for a while, but if not, I’m sure a local library will be able to help.
17 November, 2020 § Leave a comment
When you write those two most satisfying words “The End”, it is a bittersweet moment. Getting to that point could represent a couple of days if you’re Stephen King or over a year’s worth of sweating out characters and plots to finish your novel. But the savvy writer knows that moment of celebration is the forerunner to lots more hard work: the revising and editing process where you put your words through a fine sieve to reveal the gems and wash out the mud. It’s a tough task if you’re in love with your word magic. No one wants to sacrifice their babies, but the reader wants you to do that so you create not just a well-written book but a well-read one.
A very useful presentation on what to keep in mind when revising and editing your own novel or non-fiction piece is on video with a series of authors and editors offering expert tips and ideas and how to make the process easier and more productive for you.
Key points …
- be willing to cut anything to strengthen the story
- read your dialogue out loud
- use action verbs to drive the story
- avoid passive writing
- watch “I felt like” and convert it into descriptive (show v tell)
- ensure all paragraphs and scenes are in sequence
- make sure characters are consistent throughout
- once you finish your first draft, put it aside for a while
- read other people’s books and flag ideas/phrases/descriptions that impact you and learn how the writer raised your emotion
- go back to your book and flag what’s worked well in your story
- look for content issues first
- review style, voice and scene issues and note what to improve/cut
- revisit the third time and go over punctuation, structure, complicated sentences etc
- now go back and revise using your flags and notes
- consider copy-editing as you go eg read what wrote day before and notice simple errors
- wait until the end for structural editing – much easier to edit something that’s finished
- tools for editing depends on the type of edit
- spell check
- grammar check – automated and manual – look for obvious issues like that/which
- recognise the limitations of any tool you use
- beware of overusing adverbs (eg very, really etc)
- make sure the character’s voices are distinctive
- get someone else to help critique to pick up any misses from reading and reviewing your own work
Those are just my summary notes – watch the video for more detail, especially the first 2-3 sessions.
Write – revise – edit – rewrite – revise – edit – rewrite – revise edit … until you’ve polished the best book you can produce. Of course, if you snag a traditional publishing contract then some of the work will be done for you, the than the writing. If you self publish, the more you revise and edit, the better your readers experience will be. A professional editor is valuable if you can spring the money for it: if not, do the work.
1 October, 2020 § Leave a comment
I discovered Bloody Scotland by accident, and I’m glad I did.
It’s a bloody wonderful festival chock-full of crime writers including luminaries such as Val McDermid, Lee Child and more. There’s nothing wee abood it!
If you want to get your fill of intense input on writing and reading crime – tap into the minds of these generous soles.
You can watch replays of the virtual sessions on their YouTube Channel. Here is the excellent opener and there is a full playlist of talks available.
WARNING – these vids are only live until the end of October 2020.
Get to it!
And then start planning your trip to Scotland for 2021’s festival … Covid-19 permitting!
15 March, 2020 § Leave a comment
Radio drama series were a welcome form of entertainment before television took precedence in homes.
We’ve had blockbuster T.V series and movies. Visual entertainment continued but as with many things, evolution keeps changing the landscape.
More recently audiobooks and podcasts have surged in popularity, especially for those on long commutes.
The circle turns and the new kid on the block is audio fiction and it’s already capturing attention and funding from big names.
Not quite radio drama, audio fiction is not dissimilar. Plays produced and transmitted without visuals.
Read more about here …
26 January, 2020 § Leave a comment
A friend of mine was chuffed to get a guernsey in a UK writing mag. He had an article published about playing to your strengths.
Now, Greg provides great advice from his own experience and you can definitely benefit from that.
But think about the achievement of having an article you wrote being published on a broader stage and subtly promoting your writing and books.
Clever man, our Greg.
Always have a purpose in what you do, while writing for your audience.
Go read his article.
Work out what you can take away from it.
Note the strategy and emulate it when the time is right.
11 January, 2020 § Leave a comment
Writing challenges are terrific to spark your productivity and focus. It doesn’t matter what kind of challenge – just focused action with butt in chair doingness.
If you want to get the best out of any challenge, here are two key things you need to do.
Schedule the time
That’s right. Drag out your trusty diary – digital or paper – and plug in the times to be allocated to this challenge. Then stick to it! Some challenges will have specific times allocated where everyone in the challenge gets on a call or skype in or whatever.
Check the times and dates, double check any time-zone calculations if needed, and mark those times out in your diary. They are non-negotiable appointments with yourself.
Here’s a tip – sync all your diaries so you don’t miss the time!
Set up a reminder to alert you ahead of time to get ready. You know, grab your coffee, get your papers together, kick start the computer, sharpen the pencil, grab the sign-in details and chocolate (always chocolate).
Decide on your priorities
It helps to know ahead of time what you’ll use this time for.Obviously if you sign up for a 30 day squat challenge, you know exactly what you’ll be doing. But in writing, we have so many choices 🙂 Will you work on your book, your book front matter, your back matter, your author platform pieces, your quarterly planning schedule …?
As soon as you sign up for the challenge, write down what prompted you to do so. Usually, there is something in the back of your mind, prompting you to join, that said ‘this will help me to …’. That. Write that down. And if you can’t remember, write down a shopping list of the things you need to be getting on with. Then pick which is most important and can be progressed in the time frame you’ve got. Notice I didn’t say completed. It’s about moving forward. If you can complete something, all the better. But don’t overly stress yourself.
Know what you are going to work on before you start the challenge.
30 Writing Challenge Activity Ideas
Here’s a grab-bag of activities and tasks that might inspire you to get underway or done during a challenge.
- write a chapter in your book
- brainstorm chapter titles and choose the best ones
- mock up an idea of your cover design before getting it done professionally
- review your book notes and refine any ideas
- create a book plan if you don’t have one
- outline your blurb
- draft your book’s premise
- set up your front matter eg dedication, acknowledgement, disclaimer etc
- sketch out your characters – protagonist, antagonist, others
- make notes about your setting to stay consistent
- list a set of questions your non-fiction book will answer for the reader
- prepare a speech you plan to give eg at a local library book launch
- write up a blog post or ideas for a series of blog posts
- write an essay or an article for publication
- create a series of social media posts
- prepare a publishing calendar including social media, blog, newsletter
- think up some swag ideas to sell on Etsy then create them
- put together a timeline to finish and publish your book
- write a set of course notes and materials
- draft a description and keywords for your Amazon listing
- compile a book bible including mock cover, and all elements (setting, characters, chapters, messages)
- prepare a set of questions you’d want to answer in an interview about your book
- create a freebie lead magnet, giveaway, reader/subscriber gift – journal, planner, checklist, quiz, workbook, recipes, extra stories about characters – be imaginative
- write a prequel to your book series
- generate ideas for a pen name and decide on one
- set up digital spaces for your author platform eg website, facebook, etc
- draft and finalise your author bio
- check your online branding is consistent across platforms
- prepare for your book-signing event (include extra pens)
- create a calendar of events/activities for the year
Note that a writing challenge doesn’t have to be about the act of writing. It can be, but if you are also a self-publisher then there are lots of moving parts to distribute and market your books. In that case, there are even more activities you could take action on.
Ideally, you are set up with a plan and are working towards an end goal. If not, then any activity that enhances what you are doing is good. Better is when you select tasks to tie on with your overarching plan. That’s why you need to set your priorities before heading in to a challenge. Work hard on the right things.
Of course, you don’t need a collective writing challenge: do a challenge on your own. Set a specific day and timeframe, say Thursday from 1-3pm. Mark that in your diary. Decide what exactly you will work on, say drafting a table of contents. Note that in your diary too. Decide where you’ll do it and get everything ready before your time starts so you can hit the ground running. Get into the routine of doing a self-challenge a week and you can make progress faster on things that matter.
I challenge you to join a challenge or set your own. DO it now. Your future writing productivity will thank you for it.
28 November, 2019 § Leave a comment
Another literary legend lost.
His death last Sunday is punctuated by the volumes of words from this prodigious talent. A critic, intellectual, broadcaster, presenter and ever-improving poet James has left an indelible mark on Australia and the world.
The ‘kid from Kogarah’ who traversed those suburbs a couple of decades before I lived there, managed to propel himself from suburban life to being a player on a far larger stage.
There were elements of James’ personality and behaviour that rankled yet none can deny the way his words leapt into your soul like a burr in a shoe demanding to be noticed.
He was someone I’m happy to have admired from afar. I suspect had I been a dinner guest I would have been swallowed like a minnow by his gigantic mind and acerbic wit, being left as pulp to be rinsed off the dinner plate.
Above all else, poetry was his literary love.
Read some of Clive James.
Watch his videos.
Take on board his turn of phrase.
See the effect his words have on your writing.
Make that your tribute to him.